Peretz resigns from Histadrut

Barak cancels key Sunday meeting with Peretz; Avital may be considering Kadima.

peres good 298.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
peres good 298.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz announced his resignation from his position as head of the Histadrut at a Sunday morning press conference. Peretz said that he would officially leave the position in the beginning of January. The announcement was expected, as was his endorsement of Ofer Ayani as his successor in the position. Peretz's support does not pave a sure way for Ayani, whose appointment needs an okay from the Workers' Council. During the press conference, Peretz said that when he started his term as Histadrut Chairman, the veteran labor organization was at the brink of collapse, and that he had led the organization to a renewed status in Israeli society. But even as he touted his achievements in the Histadrut, Peretz was coming under increased fire among Labor Party faithfuls. "Amir Peretz just understood that he is not leading a small party like "One Nation," Labor leaders said early Sunday morning, indicating the latest development in a growing split in the Labor Party. "He is surrounded by sycophant advisors and yes-men whom he brought to the party." Labor Secretary Eitan Cabel blasted the anonymous critics, calling on them to speak on the record and air their claims against the party and against Peretz in a public - and not anonymous - manner. Even members of the pro-Peretz Labor camp seemed less optimistic Sunday, estimating that in the next few days, Labor would drop in the opinion polls because the campaign has not been managed well until this point. Discontent was evident among the ranks of the Labor Party "old guard". MK Colette Avital was rumored to be on her way out of the party, as were MKs Danny Yatom and Eli Ben-Menachem. Complaining in an interview on Army Radio that "the rules of the game are not equal for everybody," Avital said that she "needs to do some soul-searching." But both Yatom and Ben-Menachem denied the rumors that they were considering decamping in favor of Kadima. "Danny Yatom plans to fight over his place in Labor," Yatom's camp said in response. Even as rumblings within the party warned of a growing alienation, former prime minister Ehud Barak reassured interviewers on Army Radio that he had no intention of leaving the party. "I'm here for the long haul," Barak said. While Labor Party heavyweights lined up to meet with Peretz ahead of a crucial vote Sunday, former prime minister Barak cancelled his well-publicized meeting. "Amir Peretz needs to realize that he must make Barak one of the leaders of the party, there is no other way," said an advisor to Barak. "If Amir Peretz thinks he can sideline Barak, he is very mistaken." Meanwhile, representatives for Peretz said they were surprised by the cancellation and reiterated that Peretz was dedicated to working for the inclusion of both old and new members in the party. Peretz and Barak met twice last week, reportedly to mend their notoriously rocky relationship. On Thursday Barak announced that he intended to remain in Labor and thus surprised party officials when, over the weekend, he cancelled his meeting with Peretz. An adviser to Barak said that the former PM had not yet made up his mind on whether he would seek a position in the Knesset, but remained committed to the Labor party. Meanwhile, other parties used the occasion to criticize Peretz's leadership. "Amir Peretz has succeeded in scaring away all the Labor leadership," said a Shinui spokesman. "He has transformed it to the Am Ehad party in costume." Am Ehad was Peretz's former party. Peretz's meetings Sunday, including with MKs Ophir Paz-Pines and Isaac Herzog, are seen as particularly important because they come ahead of an important Labor faction meeting Sunday night in which party officials will vote on the final organization of the Labor list. The Labor Party organizes its list to allow for the placement of various sectors. The first 16 places are all "national." Of those, three are reserved for Peretz, Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel and MK Michael Melchior (as part of the merger agreement between Labor and Melchior's Meimad faction). Paz-Pines and Herzog are also considered to have "secure" places. Four spots will be reserved for female MKs according to a new party directive aimed at increasing female representation in the Knesset. The next 10 slots are organized according to various special interests, such as representatives of the kibbutz movement, immigrant community and various localities. The organization of these special interests on the list will be the focus of Labor's meeting on Sunday. The organization of these interests on the list often determines who earns a seat in the Knesset, therefore making their order a divisive issue.